According to Reuters, Islamic State (IS) insurgents released a video on Tuesday (August 19) purportedly showing the beheading of US journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago, and images of another US journalist in IS custody whose life depends on US military action in Iraq.
Foley, who has reported from the Middle East for five years, was kidnapped on November 22, 2012, by unidentified gunmen.
Steven Sotloff, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in northern Syria while he was reporting in July 2013. The video, titled "A Message To America," was posted on social media sites. It was not immediately possible to verify its authenticity.
A Twitter account set up by Foley's family to help find him said early on Wednesday: "We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers."
IS has not previously executed US citizens publicly. The video was posted after the United States resumed air strikes in Iraq for the first time since the end of the US occupation in 2011.
The video opened with a clip of US President Barack Obama saying he had authorized strikes in Iraq.
COMMENT: A person identified as James Foley and wearing an orange outfit is seen kneeling in the desert as a man in black dress with a black mask stands beside him, holding a knife.
"I call on my friends family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality," the kneeling man [James Foley] purported to have said.
The man in the black mask speaks in a British accent and says: "This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen, of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State."
"Today your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army, and a state that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide."
Following his statement he beheads the kneeling man.
At the end of the video, words on the side of the screen say "Steven Joel Sotloff" as another prisoner in an orange jumpsuit is shown on screen.
"The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision," the masked man says.
Foley, a freelance reporter, had been covering Syria’s civil war for GlobalPost. In 2011, he was held for 45 days by forces loyal to former Libyan leader Muammar Gadaafi.
Sotloff is also a freelancer journalist with published stories in TIME Magazine and FOREIGN POLICY. He has worked in Syria, Libya and Yemen.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley by IS. The intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity.
"If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends."
Islamic State also released another video on Tuesday that gave the strongest indication yet it might attempt to strike US targets.
IS swept through northern Iraq, bringing it closer to Baghdad and in control of the second city, Mosul, drew US air strikes on the country for the first time since the end of the American occupation in 2011.
US air strikes have helped Kurdish peshmerga fighters who held parts of the north regain some territory captured by the Sunni militants.